Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64, former president and current Ferree Professor of Social Justice, answers questions from college presidents (Pestello of Saint Louis, Ploeger of Chaminade and Curran of Dayton), fellow Marianists (one being his brother) and a grad (Keneally) whose career includes being UD student government vice president 1989-90 as well as the 42nd premier of New South Wales, Australia.
Questions and answers not appearing in the magazine are listed first.
Statistics show that global inequality is worsening with 85 people holding more wealth than half the population. What is your view on how to address this and achieve greater equality?
—ANN HUDOCK ’90, WASHINGTON, D.C.
I have a partial answer that has comes from my efforts to address the injustice of poverty. I strongly believe everyone has the right to basics of life – health, education, opportunities to work, etc. In advancing justice it is important to appreciate that all of us have contributed, directly or indirectly, to the injustice and at the same time appreciate that we all have gifts that can contribute to advancing justice. One part of the solution, for me, is educating our community so that all can participate in conversations of public deliberation that advance justice. Without a partnership of solidarity based on love of neighbor that brings together all impacted by poverty there can be no justice.
Is there a connection between your education as an engineer and your work for social justice?
—FATHER CHRIS WITTMANN, S.M. ’83, DAYTON
Father William Ferree, S.M., who wrote The Act of Social Justice, greatly influenced my early formation as a Marianist. To state Ferree’s insight in an overly simple way – “Injustice occurs because the institutions are poorly designed and organized for the common good, i.e., for the flourishing of all people and groups. Advancing justice requires mobilizing people to design and implement a new configuration of institutions so that there is a better realization of the common good.” As engineers we are taught the skills of design; we are not always taught skills of engaging people in the conversations necessary to advance justice.
How did your sense of mission guide you during your tenure as president of UD?
—FATHER MARTY SOLMA, S.M. ’71, ST. LOUIS
I was attracted to the Marianists by their mission of educating leaders. In conversations over the years we developed the phrase “learn, lead and serve,” as shorthand for our mission. I sought to get our UD community excited about educating servant-leaders who integrate knowledge to
advance justice in our society.
How has your work with the Fitz Center influenced your thought on what makes a “complete” professional?
—BROTHER BERNARD J. PLOEGER, S.M. ’71, HONOLULU
I have used the phrase “complete professional” to describe a person with competence in a discipline or professional field, a deep understanding of what it means to be human, and the ability to engage in positive change in society. In recent years we talked about this as “educating for practical wisdom.” I have come to believe that a complete professional must learn to see injustice and work to advance justice, especially in collaboration with those at the margins of society.
What has been the most challenging aspect of leadership for you?
—FRED PESTELLO, ST. LOUIS
It has been to engage people in constructive conversations that moved us toward greater realization of our mission as Catholic
and Marianist. That requires creating opportunities for all to appreciate how our mission was meaningful to our tasks of learning and scholarship. It also requires the skills of listening, of formulating our ideas so others could understand them, and of having the courage to engage different, even conflicting, perspectives to forge a constructive consensus. That was the most challenging — and most fulfilling — aspect of leadership.
What’s it like to be a former president?
—DAN CURRAN, DAYTON
That will be the second-best job you will ever have. As president, I was blessed with an ability to develop consensus around important issues. I used this ability to engage some faculty in exploring the important role of Catholic social teaching in our curriculum and in challenging our community to be concerned about
the youth and our families in our high-poverty neighborhoods. Also, when asked, lend your wisdom to the new president. Expect to work about as hard as you are now; you will just have fewer issues to keep you up at night.
Many students vote in an election for the first time when they are at the University. What advice would you give them?
—KRISTINA KERSCHER KENEALLY ’91, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
In working with students, I have been guided by the statement of the American Bishops and Vatican Council’s document Church in the Modern World. As citizens, we have a responsibility to participate thoughtfully in elections and in public life. In the Catholic tradition this participation must be guided by a well-informed and critical conscience. In my own experience and in conversations with students, the options we have in voting are never clear-cut. Each candidate has some strengths and some deficits in promoting the common good. Politics is the art of the possible. I ask students to examine the candidate’s positions on a variety of critical life issues, abortion, poverty reduction, war and peace, etc. and then make a prudential judgment of which candidate has the greater possibility of promoting the common good.
What did you learn from your family that has helped you in your ministry?
—FATHER JAMES FITZ, S.M. ’68, DAYTON
From Dad, I learned “to keep promises and to be resilient.” From Mom, I learned “to see with my heart.” Both of them have shaped my work of advancing justice. There is a picture of Mom and Dad on the wall in front of my desk reminding me to keep faithful to their lessons.
For our next issue, ask your questions of Matt Dunn ’91, who professionally serves as executive director of the Montgomery County (Ohio) Arts and Cultural District and whose volunteer work includes serving on the national leadership council for Marianist laity in the United States. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.